Samsung ST90 Review

June 24, 2011 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Samsung ST90 is an ultra-slim 16.1 megapixel digital camera with a unique rounded design. Measuring just 16.5mm in depth, the ST90 also offers a 5x optical zoom lens with 26mm wide-angle setting and dual image stabilisation, 720p HD video recording at 30 frames-per-second, wide range of special effects, and the intelligent Smart Auto feature which automatically adjusts the camera’s settings. The Samsung ST90 is available in black, red, pink, purple or silver priced at £89.99 / $149.99.

Ease of Use

Ten years ago, hearing about a digital compact camera having 16 megapixels would have made us splutter into our Latte's but these days it seems to be the norm. Enter the Samsung ST90, a particularly tiny digital compact camera that's just 16.5mm front to back not including the lens. It also has a modest 5x optical zoom, 2.7 inch LCD screen and some quirky digital filters such as miniature effect, sketch effect and half tone dots. We'll take a look at those later in the review but let's look around the camera first.

The most noticeable part of the Samsung ST90 is the oversized lens barrel that overlaps the top plate of the camera. It's an unusual design feature and apart from breaking the typical design of a digital compact camera, we can't see any real reason behind it. It could've been a good opportunity to put a longer zoom lens in than the seemingly standard 5x optical. Obviously the depth of the camera is an issue but considering what other manufacturers, such as Pentax have been able to do in the past, it's possible and wouldn't need much more zoom to make it stand out.

On the top of the Samsung ST90, there's the usual shutter release button which has a zoom rocker wrapped around it. Next to that is the power button and Samsung have also included a smart button. This switches between the smart auto and whichever mode you were previously in. If you're unfamiliar with smart auto, it's Samsung's version of the intelligent automatic modes that are sprouting up on all the digital compacts these days. It's a feature that analyses the scene and selects the appropriate scene mode to cope with the results. For example, if you're taking a picture of a person, the camera will select portrait mode and switch on face detection.

Samsung ST90 Samsung ST90
Front Rear

At the back, the 2.7 inch LCD screen shares its space with several buttons. The top mode button accesses a small sub menu for choosing which mode you'd like to use such as smart auto, program, scenes and video. There are some unusual scene modes not normally seen on digital compact camera including magic frame and object highlight. The latter takes two photographs in succession. One is focused, the other is blurred. The camera then superimposes the focused subject and places it on top of the other image creating one picture with a better depth of field than a typical small sensor can provide.

The main menu uses the typical Samsung menu system of a black/blue background with white lettering. The shooting section will set itself up for whatever mode you're in. For example, if you're in the aforementioned object highlight mode, the shooting menu will give options for that mode. It's a good idea because it means if you're not into setting the white balance or adjusting ISO then this way of doing things will be a lot easier to understand.

If the menu system is too confusing for whatever reason, there's also a function button in the bottom right corner denoted by the letters fn. It brings up the same menu system you get if you press the menu button and go into the shooting section. It's a similar menu to the one found on Canon digital compact cameras and has always worked together.

Samsung ST90 Samsung ST90
Front Top

The Samsung ST90 is a camera geared towards the happy snapper who simply needs a camera for days and nights out or holidays. That means that the camera has fun stuff to make picture taking more exciting. In the fn menu there's digital effects menu that applies different filters over the picture you're taking. You can choose from miniature, vignetting, half tone dot, sketch, fish eye, defog, classic, retro, negative and custom RGB.

The miniature filter blurs the bottom and top of the picture and keeps a thin strip of focused image in the centre. Using a high vantage point and shooting down on a scene gives it the impression that it's a model toy town. Usually, you'll find that the effects are the same across all cameras in the sam price bracket, regardless of make but we've not seen the half tone dot on any other manufacturer's cameras. It gives the pictures a dotted effect that you'd see if you put a magnifying glass over a newspaper black & white photograph. The other unusual effect is sketch which makes your pictures look like they've just stepped out of an A-Ha video.

There are plenty of focus aids to ensure that your pictures of family and friends come out as good as possible. On top of the standard face detection there's also an option for the camera to provide an audio response when it detects a face in the picture. There's a smile shot option which was originally developed by Sony and will automatically take a picture when the camera detects a smile in the frame. If someone blinks in the shot as can sometimes happen, the blink detection feature will take another shot straight away  to avoid people looking like they're asleep.

Samsung ST90 Samsung ST90
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

The Samsung ST90 also features a face recognition mode which allows you to register faces into an internal database, give them names and then the camera will prioritise those faces in the frame making sure they're focused and metered before any other.

Because of its positioning in the market, the Samsung ST90 has a half metal, half plastic build. The lens barrel is a nice shiny silver but we feel that the lens cover lets it down because it's that boring light grey plastic. All the buttons are firm and very responsive. The click is quite loud and it's the same noise that a computer keyboard makes when a key sticks.

While bendy and flexible, the battery door isn't too flimsy - we've seen worse. Inside the battery compartment is the rechargeable lithium ion battery and MicroSD card slot. Charging the battery is done in camera and the charger cable plugs into the HDMI slot. The cable also detaches from the plug and doubles up as the USB download cable. The camera will charge from a computer.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 16.1 megapixel SuperFine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

For a low end camera, we found that the Samsung ST90 produces some very nice pictures. We found that colours are bright and proud, especially primary colours which are rich. Noticeably reds are bright and yellows are bright. We like more subtle hues and difficult colours such as purple are also recorded accurately. The area of the picture we took a dislike to was the edges of the frame. Sharpness drops off substantially towards the edges of the frame which is a shame because they're so sharp in the middle.


There's noticeable differences in noise interference as the ISO steps up each setting, even between ISO 80 and ISO 100 which is only a third of a stop difference. These differences can't be seen at normal viewing size, we had to zoom into 100% and then it's only in the darker areas of pictures such as shadows.

Interestingly, at ISO 200 noise reduction seems to kick in as the picture is a lot smoother. This noise reduction performance doesn't last long because at ISO 400 salt and pepper noise shows through. By ISO 800 colour noise is starting to seep through in dark areas while mid-range and light tones remain relatively untouched although this doesn't last long and by ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 noise has taken over the image. Samsung have programmed the camera to drop the resolution to 3 megapixels at ISO 3200 to minimise the amount of noise in the picture. Overheating pixels can create a type of digital noise on neighbouring pixels and by culling the amount in use, they get spaced out and are less likely to affect near pixels.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Samsung ST90's 5x zoom lens offers quite a versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:




Images straight out of the camera are nice and sharp thanks to a decent focusing system but despite this, the pictures do benefit from a simple sharpening boost in Adobe Photoshop.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

File Quality

The Samsung ST90 has 3 different image quality settings available, with Superfine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options.






Chromatic Aberrations

We couldn't find any chromatic aberration at all in any sample pictures we took. From time to time we noticed that purple bands appeared around the edges of branches but these tended to be pictures that were taken in bright sunlight and had to consider that it could be lens flare. However, in our test of the Samsung ST6500, we did get chroma and they use the same lens so it's logical to assume that the ST90 will get it too. It's fair to say in most cases, the camera will handle it very well, though.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


The Samsung ST90 has a 5cm close focus distance. This is ample for everyday macro work and in the exact centre the picture is pin sharp so it's good for the occasional insect. Barrel distortion is minimal but is noticeable.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


There's a lot of vignetting towards the corners and edges of the picture at wide-angle  which does peter out as you zoom in but can still be seen in the corners of the frame.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (26mm)

Auto - Wide Angle (26mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (130mm)

Auto - Telephoto (130mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

The ST90 has a red-eye fix mode as well as red-eye reduction. The red-eye fix will use a software program to remove red-eye from a picture although we found in our tests that red-eye wasn't a problem even without the settings enabled.


Auto (100% Crop)

Red eye fix

Red eye fix (100% Crop)


The Samsung ST90 has a simple night shot mode which is found under the scenes by pressing the mode button. The function is fully auto so the shutter speeds can't be manipulated.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Samsung ST90 camera, which were all taken using the 16.1 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample video from the Samsung ST90 camera at the highest quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 31 second movie is 36Mb in size.

Product Images

Samsung ST90

Front of the Camera

Samsung ST90

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Samsung ST90

Isometric View

Samsung ST90

Isometric View

Samsung ST90

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Samsung ST90

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Samsung ST90

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Samsung ST90

Rear of the Camera / Function Menu

Samsung ST90

Top of the Camera

Samsung ST90

Side of the Camera / Main Menu

Samsung ST90

Side of the Camera

Samsung ST90

Front of the Camera


Samsung ST90

Front of the Camera

Samsung ST90

Memory Card Slot

Samsung ST90

Battery Compartment


During the pixel race a few years ago, because manufacturers were aiming their focus on cramming more and more pixels onto the sensor, other areas of the camera fell by the wayside. This meant that features, build quality and (because of the sheer amount of pixels) image quality suffered as a result. Now that consumers are wising up to the fact that pixels aren't the be all and end all of a good picture, camera makers are looking at other things to entice new customers.

The Samsung ST90 is full of these features and it bristles with things for the beginner to do. We love the filters that Samsung have fitted as well as the ones not normally seen on other cameras. We love the face detection and face recognition modes which are generally found on more expensive models. But even without these features the camera produces sharp pictures - at least in the centre of the frame - with good colours, decent noise control and even seems to handle chromatic aberration nicely.

Of course with these amount of features, the ST90 has to fall somewhere doesn't it? If we did have something to grumble about, it would be the build quality but even then, it's a camera that's a little over £100 so we can't even really fault it on that. We did find a minor annoyance in the design due to the smart button and power button being so close together on the top of the camera. A number of times through the test, we tried to switch over to the smart auto mode and actually turned it off instead.

If you're a beginner in photography, on a budget or you're looking for a child's first camera, then all those people would find that the Samsung ST90 will suit them down to the ground.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 3.5
Image quality 4
Value for money 4.5


Image sensor Type 1/2.3'' (Approx. 7.76mm) CCD
Effective Pixel Approx. 14.2 Mega pixels
Total Pixel Approx. 14.4 Mega pixels
Lens Focal Length Samsung 5X Zoom Lens f = 4.7 - 23.5mm  (35mm film equivalent : 26 - 130mm)
F No. F3.3 (watts) - F5.9 (T)
Digital Zoom • Still Image mode : 1.0X - 5.0X (Optical x Digital : 25.0X)
• Play mode : 1.0X - 13.5X (depends on image size)
Focusing Type TTL auto focus
(Multi AF, Centre AF, Face Detection AF, Object Tracking AF, Smart Face Recognition AF)
Range • Normal : 80cm - infinity (Wide), 100cm - infinity (Tele)
• Macro : 5cm - 80cm (Wide), 100cm - 150cm (Tele)
• Auto Macro : 5cm - Infinity (Wide), 100cm - Infinity (Tele)
Exposure Control Program AE
Metering Multi, Spot, Centre Weighted, Face Detection AE
Compensation ±2EV (1/3EV steps)
ISO Equivalent Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200 (up to 3M)
Flash Modes Auto, Auto & Red-eye reduction, Fill-in flash, Slow sync, Flash Off, Red-eye fix
Range • Wide : 0.2m - 3.5m
• Tele : 1.0m - 2.0m (ISO AUTO)
Recharging Time Approx. 4 seconds
Storage Media • Internal memory : 30MB
• External memory : Micro SD Card (up to 2GB guaranteed)
Micro SDHC (up to 8GB guaranteed)
* Internal memory capacity may not match these specifications.
File Format DCF, EXIF 2.21, DPOF 1.1, PictBridge 1.0
• Still Image : JPEG
• Movie Clip : AVI (MJPEG)
• Audio file : WAV
Image Size 14M : 4,320 x 3,240, 12MP : 4,320 x 2,880,
10M : 3,648 x 2,736, 10MW : 4,320 x 2,432,
5M : 2,592 x 1,944, 3M : 1,984 x 1,488,
2MW : 1,920 x 1,080, 1M : 1,024 x 768
Interface Digital Output Connector USB 2.0
Audio • Microphone: Mono
• Internal Speaker: Mono
Video Out AV: NTSC, PAL (user selectable)
DC power input 4.2V
Physical Specification Dimensions (WxHxD) 91.8 x 53.9 x 16.5mm (excluding protrusions)
Weight 105.0g (without battery and memory card)
Operating Temperature 0 - 40°C
Operationg Humidity 5 - 85%
Display Type TFT LCD
Feature 2.7'' (6.9cm), 230,000 dots
Shutter Speed Shutter Speed • Smart Auto: 1/8 - 1/2,000 seconds • Program: 1 - 1/2,000 seconds
• Night: 8 - 1/2,000 seconds
White Balance White Balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent_H, Fluorescent_L, Tungsten, Custom
Still Image Shooting Mode: Smart Auto, Program, Scene * Smart Auto: Portrait, Night Portrait, Backlight Portrait, Night, Backlight, Landscape, White, NaturalGreen, BlueSky, Sunset, Macro, Macro Text, Macro Colour, Tripod, Action, Fireworks * Scene: Magic Frame, Beauty-Shot, Object Highlight, Night, Landscape, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Beach&Snow Drive : Single, Continuous, AEB, Motion Capture Self-timer: Off, 2 seconds, 10 seconds, Double
Effect Smart Filter 2.0: Miniature, Vignetting, Half Tone Dot, Sketch, Fish Eye, Defog, Classic, Retro, Negative, Custom RGB Image Adjust: Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation (5 steps)
Edit Image Edit: Resize, Rotate, Trimming Smart Filter 2.0: Miniature, Vignetting, Soft Focus, Old film 1, Old film 2, Half Tone Dot, Sketch, Fish Eye, Defog, Classic, Retro, Negative, Custom RGB Image Adjust: Face Retouch, Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Red Eye Fix, ACB, Add Noise
Movie Clip Recording * 5X Optical Zoom enable (Max Recording time: 20 minutes) Mode: Smart Movie, Movie * Smart Movie: Landscape, Blue Sky, Natural Green, Sunset Size: 1,280 x 720HQ (30fps, 15fps) - Per one file: Max. 4GB 640 x 480(30fps, 15fps) 320 x 240 (30fpss 15fps) * Due to the noise while optical zooming, user can select to record sound or not. (Voice recording selectable: Sound Alive On / Sound Alive Off / Mute)
Effect Smart Filter 2.0: Palette Effect 1, Palette Effect 2, Palette Effect 3, Palette Effect 4, Miniature, Vignetting, Fish Eye, Defog, Classic, Retro, Negative, Custom RGB
Edit Pause during Recording and Playing, Still Image Capture
Voice Recording Voice Recording Voice Recording (max. 10 hours)
Voice Memo in Still Image (max. 10 seconds)
Special Feature Special Feature - Smart Button, Slim Body, 5x zoom
· 14 Mege Pixels
· 26mm 5X Zoom
· 2.7'' LCD (230K)
· 720p, 30fps, MJPEG
· Smart Auto 2.0 (Still & Movie)
· Smart Filter 2.0
- Intelli-Zoom
- Object Highlight
- Magic Frame
- Sound Alive
· Smart Face Recognition+Face Tracking
· Smart Album
· Perfect portrait system
- Built-in PC S / W (intelli-studio)
Sharpness   Soft+, Soft, Normal, Vivid, Vivid+
Date Imprinting   Off, Date, Date & Time
Power Source   • Rechargeable battery: BP70A (740mAh, minutes 700mAh)
• Charger: SAC-48 (AC Adapter), CB20U05B (USB Cable)
• Connector Type: 20pin
* Included items may vary depending on sales region.
System Requirement in general For Windows PC with processor better than Pentium? 3.2GHz / AMD Athlon FX 2.6GHz or higher
Minimum 512MB RAM (Over 1GB recommended)
Windows XP SP2 / Vista / 7
250MB of available hard-disk space (Over 1GB recommend)
USB port
CD-ROM drive
nVIDIA Geforce 7600GT or later / Ati X1600 series or later
1,024 × 768 pixels, 16-bit colour display compatible monitor
(1,280 x 1,024, 32-bit colour display recommended)
Microsoft DirectX 9.0c or later
For Macintosh Power Mac G3 or later
Mac OS 10.4 or higher
Minimum 256MB RAM
110MB of available hard-disk space
USB port
CD-ROM drive

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